Yorkshire mum-of-two SARAH JACKSON gives an account of life in Paris under the current lockdown

I’VE lived in Paris on and off since getting married in 1999. I grew up in Yorkshire – I have an aunt who lives in York. I live with my husband Guy, daughter Sophie, 19, and son Alex, 16, in a 100 square-metre three-bedroom apartment in Paris’s 20th arrondissement, close to the Père Lachaise cemetery. What I love most about living here is being able to stroll out of my front door and into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That came to an abrupt halt last Tuesday with President Macron’s announcement that everyone living in France would be confined to their homes for 15 days in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The new rules mean that anyone wanting to step outside their front door must first fill in a form, ticking a box to state their reason for being outside – either travelling to and from work where working from home is not possible, buying food, visiting the pharmacy or for a medical appointment, helping a vulnerable family member, or taking exercise or walking the dog provided these activities are done alone and within 500m of your address. 
Anyone who fails to comply can be fined and police are patrolling the streets to enforce the regulations.
The lockdown came into force quickly when France saw what was unfolding in neighbouring Italy. On Thursday, March 12, it was announced that schools would close along with all shops, cafes, bars and any other non-essential businesses. 
The government decided to go ahead with municipal elections three days later, meaning that having asked people to avoid socialising in large groups, many went out to vote and enjoy the sunshine.
Seeing the crowds alarmed the authorities and the President announced the lockdown last Monday, to begin at midday the following day. 
French people have had to decide where to base themselves. Some Parisians jumped in their cars and on to trains to head to their holiday homes in the country and on the coast while others hit the supermarkets. The message was not so much ‘keep calm and carry on’ as ‘keep calm and entirely alter your way of living to avoid spreading the virus’.

Day 1 Tuesday March 17
Lockdown begins at midday so I’m up early for some last-minute shopping. There are long queues outside many of the shops, some of which are only allowing a few shoppers in at a time. One or two of the bakeries also sell coffee and I see little groups who still can’t quite break the habit of a lifetime – café society is not just a Paris cliché, it’s almost like a religion for some. Many live in tiny rooms and apartments and the tables and chairs on the pavements are almost an extension of their living rooms. I wonder how these people will manage when they are forced to stay indoors? The atmosphere is calm and people are polite, by Parisian standards. The supermarket shelves are being steadily restocked and it crosses my mind that shoppers in Paris can only buy what they themselves can carry – no-one is loading up their four-by-fours, they are wheeling their purchases home in their trolleys or carrying them in bags. No-one is panicking – the rules are clear. Back in the apartment we close the door and our confinement begins.
By 3pm my daughter is wondering how things are looking outside so she prints off a form (if you don’t have a printer it’s permissible to copy one out by hand), ticks a box and goes out to buy a baguette and some cakes! The streets are silent. Everyone is doing as they are told.

Day 2 Wednesday March 18 
Alex is currently at school studying for the first year of his French Bac. He has important exams in the summer and so far there’s been no suggestion that any of these will be cancelled or postponed. He’s in contact with his teachers online through Google Classroom and they are setting work to try and complete the programme. Yesterday we ordered a laptop as an incentive and this arrives promptly – delivery firms are still working. His biggest concern is not being able to exercise, but he fills in a form after lunch and goes for a run. I spend the day setting up a proper space in our bedroom for Guy to work from home. 
We’re lucky we can work from home – although my English teaching is now on hold. In France the state has said it will cover 80 per cent of the wages of people who are off work because they can’t work remotely and 100 per cent of the pay of people who are off sick or because they need to look after their children, up to four times the minimum wage. Macron has also vowed he won’t allow any French business to fail.

Day 3 Thursday March 19
My daughter is currently on an impromptu gap year after withdrawing from her university course in the UK before Christmas. With universities closed across Europe, that’s now beginning to look like a master stroke. She had planned to travel and get a job, but instead of the world being her oyster, her horizon now extends no further than the four walls of our apartment. At least with social media she can easily chat to friends.
I start the morning on a WhatsApp group comparing notes with friends in France and the UK. Everyone is surprisingly upbeat. But the most uplifting moment of the day is at 8pm every evening when everyone in Paris opens their windows or steps out on to their balconies to applaud the health workers and emergency services. 
Most of the people who live cheek by jowl in the apartments in our neighbourhood wouldn’t recognise each other if they met in the street, but as the windows open and the clapping and cheering starts people wave to each other and it feels good to connect and know that everyone’s in the same boat.

What I wish I’d done before the lockdown
1. Get my hair cut
2. Stock up on paint and DIY supplies
3. Get a dog (this one’s from Sophie) – it’s a good excuse to go out!